This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: the Guardian reports that last Friday, California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a statewide ban on private prisons. The ban, which also applies to companies that hold immigrant detainees for ICE, is likely to set off yet another legal battle between California and the Trump administration. And the New York Times writes that on Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard the case of Lee Malvo, one of two snipers who terrorized the Washington, DC region with a series of deadly attacks in the fall of 2002. Malvo, who was 17 years old at the time, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, before a series of Supreme Court decisions that limited harsh punishments for juvenile offenders. The Court’s decision could have significant implications for inmates around the country who committed murders before they turned 18, and who could obtain new sentences if the Court rules in Malvo’s favor.
On the muckraker/watchdog front: in September, a recruitment ad for the LAPD ran on the ultra-right-wing news website Breitbart, sparking widespread confusion and outrage. A piece from the Washington Post this week examines the controversy from a broader historical perspective, arguing that the ad’s placement should not come as a surprise given the LAPD’s long history of racist recruitment and hiring practices and aggressive targeting of communities of color. In related news, the Guardian reported that according to a new analysis from the UCLA Labor Center, Los Angeles courts force roughly 100,000 people to do weeks and even months of “community service” each year, exposing some of them to exploitative and hazardous working conditions without basic labor rights and protections. The study found that local government departments and not-for-profit organizations rely on laborers threatened with debts and jail time to do work that would otherwise be paid – and that those affected are overwhelmingly people of color.
In complex crime storytelling: last November, a double murder-suicide in Los Angeles escaped widespread notice, even locally, amid an avalanche of other news. A closer look at the case, from the Los Angeles Times, reveals a story of poverty, addiction, mental illness, and lives lived at the fringes of society, “on the porous border between haves and have-nots.” And a new piece from the New Republic takes readers inside the 53206, a heavily African American neighborhood north of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the “most incarcerated” zip code in the country.
And in culture/true crime: Variety reports that on Monday, the police interrogation firm John E. Reid and Associates filed a federal lawsuit against Netflix and “When They See Us” director Ava DuVernay, claiming that it was defamed in the miniseries on the Central Park Five case. The firm’s controversial Reid Technique is mentioned by name in the fourth episode of the series, when a character confronts NYPD detective Michael Sheehan with allegations that he used the method to coerce confessions out of the five original defendants in the case, who were later exonerated. And the New York Times covers a production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” put on by 30 medium-security inmates of Colorado’s Sterling Correctional Facility. Prison plays have been around for decades, but this one was different: over a week in September, the cast and crew took the show on tour, travelling over 130 miles by bus to perform at two other prisons around Colorado. For some, it was the first time in years they had been outside Sterling’s 20-foot walls and razor fences.